Senior QB an ‘inspiration’ for Panthers heading into Arizona Bowl
LARAMIE -- There isn't a stat that can measure what Dan Ellington has meant to the Georgia State football program.
In less than two seasons in Atlanta, the Panthers quarterback has put up video-game numbers and proven the doubters wrong with statistics that already rival the top signal callers in GSU history.
The senior is second in passing touchdowns with 33, third in passing yards and total yards with 4,228 and 5,461, respectively. He will look to add to those numbers against the Wyoming Cowboys in the Arizona Bowl Dec. 31 in Tucson.
Still, that's only part of what makes Ellington so special.
On Nov. 9, the Panthers headed to the locker room tied 24-24 with Louisiana-Monroe on the road. Late in the second quarter, the 6-foot, 3-inch, 205-pound Ellington heard a pop in his right knee. He knew immediately that type of noise meant trouble.
It was a torn ACL. Doctors had no doubt.
Ellington, who has thrown for 2,291 yards to go along with 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season, didn't sulk, wondering what his future held in football. Instead, he gave his team an impassioned halftime speech, according to a story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution entitled "Dan Ellington nears end of stellar Georgia State career."
A major injury like this is a season-ender for most. Not Ellington. He told coaches that his plan was to suit up the following week at home against No. 25 Appalachian State.
“I knew I just wanted to get out there and try to play and just see how I felt,” Ellington told the AJC. “After the doctor said it was my decision, I knew I was going to play for these guys.”
CLIP: Special guest Georgia State expert Ben Moore talks Dan Ellington and the Panthers on the Roaring Repeater: Episode 13
Ellington completed 12-of-27 passes for 88 yards that evening. He threw one touchdown, and for the first time since the 2018 meeting with the Mountaineers, tosses two interceptions. GSU limped to a 1-3 finish in the regular season after starting the campaign 6-2, including arguably the biggest upset of the college football season with a 38-30 opening day road victory over SEC opponent, Tennessee.
Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl praised Ellington during his weekly press conference.
"He's an excellent senior quarterback," Bohl said. "He has good size and they are balanced on offense. He throws the ball well. That will pose a challenge for us as we get ready for this game."
Is Bohl shocked that Ellington is still playing on essentially one leg? Not one bit. He said he had players at North Dakota State sign waivers to play with a torn ACL. What this shows, Bohl said, is that Ellington has heart.
GSU head coach Shawn Elliott couldn't agree more.
“What an inspiration he is to myself and to our football team and to everybody that’s watching and paying attention to what we’re doing,” Elliott told the AJC in late November.
“What a player and what a person he turned out to be for our football program."
Since the ACL injury in early November, Ellington's rushing numbers have undoubtedly taken a big hit.
Before the setback, he rushed for 603 yards and five touchdowns, including a 128-yard outing against Coastal Carolina. Post injury, Ellington has minus-5 yards on 21 carries and has yet to find the end zone.
He's been sacked seven times, including five in a 38-10 loss to rival Georgia Southern.
Arm still works
Ellington has thrown three touchdown passes to go along with 520 yards through the air in his final four games. He is completing nearly 60 percent of his passes. He has also tossed three interceptions.
His best performance since the knee injury was a 208-yard outing in a 28-15 win over South Alabama. Ellington threw two touchdowns in that game and completed a 77.8 percent of his passes.
Ellington has done all of this without the services of Panthers' second-leading receiver, Sam Pinckney, who was lost for the season with an injury. Pinckney had 36 catches for 460 yards and five touchdowns. GSU is also playing without Terrance Dixon, who had nine grabs for 82 yards and a score.
Numbers don't lie
GSU has the 28th best offense in the country, averaging 447 yards per game to go along with 32.4 points per game. The Panthers (7-5) have the No. 14 rushing attack in the nation, racking up 5.27 yards per carry.
They have scored 29 touchdowns on the ground along with nearly 3,000 total rushing yards. Nearly 1,400 of those belong to senior running back, Tra Barnett. So do 12 of those scores.
GSU can do it in the ground and through the air. Wyoming has not been good at stopping the latter, allowing 265 yards per game. Despite Ellington's injury, he has still been able to sling it -- when he has time.
The Cowboys (7-5) have 31 sacks this season. Solomon Byrd leads UW with 6.5 in 2019. Garrett Crall has 4.5